A Trail of Innovation


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Prof. Ehud Shapiro


Scientific innovation sometimes follows a winding and surprising path. This is particularly true for Prof. Ehud Shapiro of the Weizmann Institute’s Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, and Biological Chemistry Departments. At the start of his career, he developed a computerized method for deriving theory from facts according to Karl Popper’s philosophy. He then created a new computer programming language called Concurrent Prolog and invented an original method for setting up virtual “meeting places” on the Web.

The next turn of the innovation trail took Shapiro from computers to biology. He envisioned an imaginative method for building billions of tiny nanobiological computers that would patrol body cells, identify potentially harmful processes and block them in time to prevent disease. This vision, which initially sounded like science fiction, suddenly took on a concrete form when Shapiro crossed the central square on the Weizmann campus, set up a lab in the Biological Chemistry Department and, together with a small team, succeeded in building nanobiological computers that performed various mathematical tasks in a test tube. Next, Shapiro’s team built nanobiological computers that, in the test tube, could identify malignant processes and release anti-cancer medications. Shapiro has also developed a method for tracing the “genealogy” of cells in the human body, an approach that in the future may contribute to battling various diseases, including cancer.


Why Israel? Why Weizmann?

“I grew up in Israel, served for years in the army in active and reserve duty, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel, and have commanded a tank battalion. I know the country inside out and want my children to grow up here and feel that it’s their home. The Weizmann Institute grants me the freedom to pursue scientific adventures and investigate any topic that interests me.”

“I chose to be photographed in the Judean Hills, not far from my home in Nataf. I walk along these paths every day, and while walking, occasionally come up with scientific ideas and solutions.”


Prof. Ehud Shapiro’s research is supported by the Clore Center for Biological Physics; the Arie and Ida Crown Memorial Charitable Fund; the Cymerman - Jakubskind Prize; the Fusfeld Research Fund; the Phyllis and Joseph Gurwin Fund for Scientific Advancement; the Henry Gutwirth Fund for Research; Ms. Sally Leafman Appelbaum, Scottsdale, AZ; the Carolito Stiftung, Switzerland; the Louis Chor Memorial Trust Fund; and the estate of Fannie Sherr, New York, NY. Prof. Shapiro is the incumbent of the Harry Weinrebe Chair of Computer Science and Biology.